Whether in the burbs of its biggest cities or in a quiet coastal college town, California is bursting with places that are renovating and reinventing their conference and convention hotels.
Hotel owners and investors are pouring millions of dollars into overhauls that will leave no guest room unturned or banquet hall untouched.
Here are five new and newly remodeled meeting hotels that planners should keep on their California radar.
DoubleTree by Hilton Ontario Airport
Ontario, California, is just 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the Inland Empire, the 12th-most-populous metropolitan region in the nation. The DoubleTree by Hilton Ontario Airport hotel is just south of the Ontario International Airport and next door to the 225,000-square-foot Ontario Convention Center. But the hotel also sits on 18 acres, and with its red-tiled roof and palm-tree-lined pool, the property feels more like a hacienda resort than a conference hotel.
The three-building hotel is in the middle of a three-phase, $18 million renovation that will include all 482 guest rooms as well as the meeting and public spaces. The first phase, which wrapped up this spring, included the main building that is “the heart of the hotel” with the restaurants, meeting space and business center, said Todd Simons, director of sales and marketing. The hotel’s 27,000 square feet of flexible meeting space — including the 12,800-square-foot ballroom, “the largest ballroom in the Inland Empire” — received new finishes and furniture. The garden pavilion overlooks the pool area, and “with the weather we have, we can use it pretty much year-round,” Simons said. “We try to use that space for receptions and lunches, get people out of the meeting rooms.”
The two remaining buildings, which both house guest rooms, will be renovated this winter and the winter of 2018-2019. In addition to Porter’s Prime Steak House, Citrus West is the hotel’s breakfast and lunch cafe. Misty’s Lounge has live music seven nights a week, and “it’s rocking there Friday and Saturday nights,” Simons said.
Next door, the Ontario Convention Center is a striking white, glass-walled building with a 20,000-square-foot ballroom that can be split into three smaller spaces, a 70,000-square-foot exhibition hall and another 24,000 square feet of meeting rooms.
The DoubleTree also has a hop-on, hop-off shuttle that runs guests to Ontario Mills Mall, California’s largest indoor outlet mall, with more than 200 stores and a 30-screen AMC Theater.
Embassy Suites by Hilton San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo, simply SLO to the locals, has it all: It’s a college town that’s home to the renowned California Polytechnic State University; it’s a coastal city that’s about 15 miles inland from each of the seaside resort towns of Morro Bay and Pismo Beach; and it’s minutes from a couple dozen central-coast vineyards and wineries.
“Being right along the 101 and being halfway between LA and San Francisco, we pull pretty equally from southern California and northern California,” said Bruce Skidmore, area director of sales and marketing for the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Luis Obispo.
As the largest meeting and conference space in San Luis Obispo County, the Embassy Suites gets a big chunk of the city’s meeting business. The 195-room hotel is putting the finishing touches on a renovation that includes “everything; there’s nothing it doesn’t include,” he said.
The project started in early 2016 and should be completed by November. In August, workers wrapped up renovations of the lobby and the central atrium, which houses the Greenhouse Grill and Café. Work also included all new hard and soft goods and bathroom refreshments for the hotel’s 195 suites.
The San Luis Obispo Room is a 5,100-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into three smaller spaces, and because it’s the area’s largest ballroom, “pretty much all the big events come through here,” Skidmore said. Two additional 1,100-square-foot rooms can each be divided, and the U-shaped Del Monte Room can be split into four spaces. The 4,000-square-foot Garden Terrace is an outdoor patio above the ballroom.
The hotel offers a free, cooked-to-order breakfast every morning and a two-hour evening reception every night with an open bar, but the hotel is also within walking distance of 14 restaurants and 19 stores.
“It’s such a great town; the restaurants are fantastic, and the wine is great,” Skidmore said.